10 Types of Cervical Mucus or Discharge You Need to Know About

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10 Types of Cervical Mucus or Discharge That You Need to Know About

Cervical discharge is normal during a woman’s menstrual cycle and helps to keep the vagina healthy. Mucus or discharge from the cervix has the function of removing bacteria and dead skin cells from the vagina to prevent infection. Under normal circumstances, cervical discharge looks like clear or milky-white sticky fluid that shouldn’t have a strong odor.

The type of cervical discharge or mucus changes through the menstrual cycle. For example, just after your period, the discharge may be thinner and watery and around ovulation becomes thicker and sticky. Also, you may experience implantation discharge that looks like light brown spotting if you become pregnant.

It is also important to know about cervical discharge that shows signs of a vaginal infection. If the cervical mucus has a distinct offensive odor or has an unusual color, it could show that you have a bacterial or yeast infection.

In this article, you will find out all you need to know about cervical discharge and what changes to your vaginal mucus mean.

10 Types of Cervical Mucus or Discharge

Let’s look in more detail at the 10 types of cervical discharge that you may notice during your menstrual cycle. You will also find out when you should see a doctor for signs of abnormal discharge.

1. Thin and Clear Cervical Discharge

Most women experience thin and clear cervical discharge just after their period or just before their next period.

Doctors from the National Health Service (NHS) say that it’s normal for women and older girls to have vaginal discharge. This can vary in amount and texture during the menstrual cycle. Also, not all women have the same amount of discharge as part of the normal menstrual cycle. Doctors say that the color of normal cervical discharge is clear or white and is sticky for most of the menstrual cycle.1

According to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, watery and clear cervical discharge can happen at different times of your cycle. You may also notice thinner watery discharge on your underwear after intense exercising.2

Thin, clear watery discharge is also often noticed after having intercourse. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says that sexual excitement increases the amount of vaginal discharge you produce. The discharge will be thinner and more watery than usual.14

You can find more detailed information about other causes of clear cervical mucus in my article about clear watery discharge: is it normal or something to worry about?

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2. Milky White Cervical Discharge

You might find that your vagina produces a white discharge that has a milkier look towards the end of your menstrual cycle.

According to Dr. Yvonne Tobah from the Mayo Clinic, in about the third week of their cycle, many women notice that their cervical mucus becomes thicker and has a cloudy or creamy appearance. This is completely normal as the amount of discharge decreases after ovulation.3

However, if you have become pregnant, you might notice some signs of implantation spotting and that your cervical discharge increases. Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD says that the white milky discharge occurs because the walls of the vagina thicken in preparation for pregnancy.15

3. Ovulation Discharge that Looks Like Egg White

Ovulation discharge during the middle of your cycle takes on a sticky appearance that may resemble egg whites.

Increased discharge around the time of ovulation is important to help sperm live long enough to fertilize an egg. In the few days before ovulation, you will notice that the vaginal discharge increases and the secretions are stretchy and wet.

Doctors from the American Pregnancy Association say that cervical mucus at ovulation is generally called egg white cervical mucus (EWCM). This is happens as your hormone levels fluctuate and the consistency of discharge changes. The mucus will also take on a cream-like appearance. At the time of ovulation, your cervical discharge is at its highest.4

If you keep a regular menstrual calendar, checking the amount and type of cervical mucus can also help determine when your chances of conceiving are at their highest. Apart from a thick jelly-like or egg white discharge around the time of ovulation, there are other ways to tell if you are about to ovulate, such as abdominal cramping, light spotting, breast tenderness and an increase in basal body temperature.

4. Implantation Discharge

Implantation discharge looks like light pink or brownish discharge or spotting as a result of becoming pregnant.

The light spotting or discharge happens when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. This can result in implantation cramping and light spotting as the uterus contracts. Obstetrician and Gynecologist Dr. Nivin Todd says that the brown-colored discharge usually happens between 6 and 12 days after conception. This means that many women mistake this early sign of pregnancy for the start of their menstrual period.5

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Dr. Todd says that light bleeding at the early stages of pregnancy is completely normal and nothing to worry about. Implantation bleeding only lasts a very short time and should not be heavy or painful.

Other early signs of pregnancy include changes in breast size and tenderness, frequent need to urinate, and headaches.

5. Cervical Discharge or Mucus During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, you will notice an increase in cervical discharge that lasts for most of your pregnancy.

According to doctors from the NHS, cervical discharge during pregnancy happens as the cervix and vaginal wall get softer. This increase in discharge helps to prevent bacteria getting to the uterus and affecting your health or your baby’s health. Normal cervical discharge during pregnancy is thin discharge with a milky white appearance.6

You will also notice changes in cervical secretions towards the end of your pregnancy. For example, vaginal discharge increases and becomes very watery and could be mistaken for urine. During the last week of pregnancy, doctors say that cervical discharge may contain thick mucus and even some blood. This is normal and it’s a sign that your body is preparing for birth.6

Signs of abnormal discharge during pregnancy include off-colored discharge that has a strange smell along with vaginal itching or swelling. If this occurs, you should always speak to your doctor or obstetrician for advice.

6. Bloody or Brown Cervical Discharge

Depending on your menstrual cycle, you may occasionally have bloody or brown cervical discharge just after your period.

Doctors from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation say that the brown or bloody discharge just after your period is old blood. This happens as your body cleans out any waste from your menstrual period. This is normal for many women. Brown discharge just before your period could also be a sign of implantation bleeding.2

If you have irregular monthly periods, you might have brown discharge every once in a while. This can be for the same reason that some women have brown discharge towards the end of their period.

According to Dr. Trina Pagano on WebMD, brown discharge is common among women who have irregular menstrual cycles or infrequent periods. Along with the brownish spotting, there may be some vaginal bleeding and you may suffer from pelvic pain and cramping.16

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In rarer cases, noticing brown discharge at other times during your menstrual cycle could be a sign of something more serious. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that abnormal cervical discharge that is brown or blood-tinged could be a sign of cervical cancer.7

Researchers from the American Cancer Society say that if you have unusual brownish discharge between periods or you are post-menopausal, you should arrange a checkup with your doctor.8

If you have brown discharge, you can find other potential causes and more information in my article about brown discharge: what does it mean?

7. White and Clumpy Vaginal Discharge

A vaginal yeast infection is usually to blame for white and clumpy vaginal discharge that also causes itching around the vagina.

It is normal that your vagina contains small amounts of yeast as well as healthy bacteria. Yeast infections in the vagina occur when there is an overgrowth of yeast due to an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. This imbalance can cause a thick white cervical discharge that resembles cottage cheese.

A yeast infection in the vagina is called candidiasis. According to the American Family Physician, yeast infections of the vagina cause thick white discharge. The other symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are swelling and pain around the vagina, intense itching, and pain during sexual intercourse.9

There are many natural ways to get rid of white and clumpy vaginal discharge caused by a yeast infection. For example, coconut oil is a natural remedy for candida because it contains antimicrobial properties that can help to kill off candida pathogens. There are also many foods that can boost your vaginal health. Other natural treatments for candidiasis include apple cider vinegar and applying natural yogurt to your vagina.

8. Yellow or Green Cervical Mucus

Cervical mucus that is yellowish or green and has an offensive odor could be a symptom of a bacterial infection.

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a common vaginal infection when harmful bacteria infect the vagina. Other types of infections of the vagina that cause off-colored discharge are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

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According to Dr. Traci Johnson on WebMD, common symptoms of a vaginal infection include yellow or green discharge, swelling and itching around the vagina, and a strong vaginal odor. You may also have pain when urinating and bleeding during sexual intercourse. Infections of your reproductive organs can also be a reason for lower pelvic pain.10

Some natural remedies for bacterial infections that affect the vagina include tea tree oil for its antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar, and probiotics.

9. Grayish Cervical Discharge

Some vaginal infections can also cause a grayish cervical discharge along with a burning sensation in the vagina.

Doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that infections like bacterial vaginosis can cause a thin gray discharge that has a strong fishy smell to it. This may also cause discomfort when you pee and itching at the opening of your vagina.11

It is important to quickly treat any symptoms of a vaginal infection. Doctors from the CDC say that if left untreated, vaginal infections can cause more serious complications like infertility or increase your chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

10. No Cervical Discharge At All

Some women find that they have very little or no cervical discharge at all that results in vaginal dryness.

Researchers from the American Pregnancy Association say that cervical mucus is stimulated by the estrogen hormone. Fluctuations in your hormone levels can also impact on how much cervical mucus you secrete during your menstrual cycle.4

According to doctors from the NHS, many women experience some kind of vaginal dryness with little cervical discharge. This is very common in women after the menopause when there are decreased levels of estrogen in the body. Also, giving birth or using some types of contraceptives can all affect levels of cervical discharge.

If you suffer from vaginal dryness, please refer to my article about natural remedies for vaginal dryness where you can find natural lubricants and vaginal suppositories (Pessaries).

When to See a Doctor for Cervical Discharge

If your cervical discharge or mucus is generally clear to white and doesn’t give off a strong odor, then you have nothing to worry about. Also, depending on your menstrual cycle, you will notice that cervical mucus increases in volume and stickiness around ovulation. You might also experience some mid-cycle spotting.

In some cases, abnormal cervical discharge can be a sign of a more serious condition that needs to be examined. Doctors from the Cleveland Clinic say that you should see a doctor for abnormal discharge in the following circumstances:13

  • You notice that your cervical discharge has become thicker or smells different.
  • The mucus from your vagina has a gray, yellowish, or green color.
  • You also have itching, pain, swelling, or burning around the vagina.
  • Along with the abnormal vaginal discharge, you have pelvic pain.

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources:

    1. NHS. Vaginal discharge.
    2. PAMF. Vaginal discharge.
    3. MayoClinic. Getting pregnant.
    4. AmericanPregnancy. Cervical mucus.
    5. WebMD. What is implantation bleeding?
    6. NHS. Vaginal discharge in pregnancy.
    7. MayoClinic. Vaginal discharge.
    8. CancerOrg. Signs and symptoms of cervical cancer.
    9. AAFP. Vaginal discharge.
    10. WebMD. Female genital problems.
    11. CDC. Bacterial vaginosis.
    12. NHS. Vaginal dryness.
    13. ClevelandClinic. Vaginal discharge.
    14. AAFP. Vaginal discharge.
    15. WebMD. Pregnancy symptoms.
    16. WebMD. Vaginal discharge: what’s abnormal?
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